Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Question: How much do you have to know about a particular subject in order to be a teacher to someone else?

Answer: More than the person you're teaching.

We live in an age of specialists, experts, and high-tech gurus. It's easy to think that the only person qualified to teach a certain subject is someone with very extensive study and experience in that subject. But that is not always true.

With my first baby, I had some questions and concerns about breastfeeding, which I posed to my OB/Gyn during an office visit. This man had years of medical training and experience in everything to do with babies. In response to my questions, he paused and then chuckled. "Hmmm, let me call my wife!" My doctor knew he could give precise technical answers to my questions, but that his wife could provide practical, empathetic answers. In this instance, she would be the better teacher.

What about our children? Are they qualified to teach? Maybe so! A teenage friend - a very talented vionist - offered to give lessons to one of my daughters who had expressed an interest in learning the instrument. Amy planned and prepared weekly lessons, working hard to lay an excellent musical foundation in her young pupil. Martha is now studying piano, and has in turn taken on the challenge of teaching her younger cousins. I've been impressed with how much these little cousins have learned over the past few months - and also impressed with how much this experience has worked to improve Martha's own skill and understanding.

One teenage son has made it his mission to pass his knowledge of hunting and trapping on to his younger brother. They have spent countless hours together scouting for wild turkeys, tracking deer, looking for signs of raccoon and otter. Our college sophomore tutors our highschool sophomore in Chemistry, creating amazing diagrams and illustrations to explain difficult concepts.

But even young children have something to teach. The six-year-old can help teach the four-year-old to clean up the toys in the playroom floor. The fourth-grader can help the first-grader with reading and basic math. Both benefit - one, from the personal attention and involvement of a more knowledgable sibling; the other, from organizing and explaining concepts to someone else, thus solidifying and broadening their own understanding of the subject at hand.

It is an awesome thing for our children to be able to help and encourage those around them. I hope my kids, their entire lives, will be learners...and teachers.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I love this post. Now if I can just motivate all my little teachers to instruct their younger siblings in course work that is more important than perfecting resonant belches!